Lord Byron wrote, “Adversity is the first path to truth.”

For public higher education in Maine, the reality of economic and demographic trends is revealing some very hard and painful truths. As a member of the University of Southern Maine community and vice chair of the Board of Visitors, I am encouraged by the new direction being set for Maine’s public higher education in the face of adversity.

Changes, including faculty and staff layoffs, are going to be hard and disrupt the lives of some very dedicated employees. However, failure to act will only make a college degree less affordable for students and their families, and they, after all, are the customers we serve.

Based on current trends, children born today can expect to pay more than $43,000 for their first year of a USM education in 2032. That’s simply not realistic, which means we must change how we deliver higher learning. The proposed changes at USM begin a necessary transformation while eliminating a $14 million annual spending gap. Most importantly, the strategy should open access to talented faculty and programs throughout the University of Maine System, permitting students to get the courses they need when they need them at a price they can afford.

We are not alone in facing this challenge. The opportunity, then, is to figure out how to deliver a high- quality education as efficiently and collaboratively as possible.

Tony Payne

Falmouth